As a second generation special education teacher, Chicago-native Nick Giacobbe grew up with an appreciation of differentiated instruction. He entered HGSE’s Technology Innovation Education (TIE) Program to figure out how to use technology to improve access for all learners. “This has been at the core of my learning and work,” he says.
During his year in the TIE Program, Giacobbe’s classmates spoke of his hard-working, thoughtful, passionate, and informed responses, calling him a “true educator with a pure art for the practice” and a “kind spirit.”
Senior Lecturer Joe Blatt, TIE program director, agrees, noting Giacobbe’s soft-spoken nature and unfailing modesty. “He has been at the center of everyone’s learning in TIE this year,” Blatt says. “Creativity, community, and caring are qualities we highly value in TIE, and Nick clearly embodies them every day in every interaction.”
Upon learning that he had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for TIE, Giacobbe answered some questions about his time at the Ed School and beyond.
What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? I’ve learned to become comfortable with taking risks and experiencing failure as a part of the learning process. In several of my classes, we were encouraged to build out smaller aspects of our projects with the understanding that our first attempts would be junk. They were right! With that mindset, I was more objective and willing to identify flaws early in the process, remedy them, and produce a better result in the end.
Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? Is there enough space for me to name them all? My new point of view for design and constructionism is thanks to Karen Brennan’s Designing for Learning by Creating. David Rose’s Universal Design for Learning highlighted how producing supports for learners on the margins is beneficial for all. Going through the process of preparing a product and a pitch for a panel of industry experts in Joe Blatt’s Informal Learning for Children showed me how to transform ideas into something tangible and marketable.
How did you stay inspired throughout the year? It’s very easy to stay inspired when you come home to a wife like Emilie and a son like Sam. I couldn’t ask for better supports through all the late-night project sessions, electronic tinkering and prototyping and, of course, supporting the Harvard basketball team. Go Crimson! I was also very inspired by my colleagues in the School of Education. Their consistent excellence and engagement brought out the best in me.
Any special study spots? I have three favorites. The Launchpad (a common space on the 3rd floor of Gutman) is a great place to meet with students to get advice and feedback on your work. I go to Lamont for their super late hours and to get inspiration from the Harvard undergraduates. Unsurprisingly, they model effective study habits better than any group I’ve ever seen. When I’m brainstorming or need to be alone with my thoughts, I go to the Widener stacks. It’s so quiet and remote. It’s like studying on the moon.
What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program? Be open to new experiences. I had a set idea for what I would be taking when I arrived. After course shopping, that quickly changed. After seeing Tom Hehir and Howard Gardner in action, I had to take their classes.
Make yourself available as a resource to your peers. One of the advantages of being here is that your classmates are amazing! Everyone here at the Ed School has their unique talents and gifts to offer. Share freely and others will follow suit.
Oh, and if you take T550 (Designing for Learning by Creating), arrive early and get a seat in the front. It’s worth it.
If you could transport one person/place/thing from HGSE and/or Cambridge to your next destination, what would it be? Gutman Cafe, where great educators meet.
UPDATE: In the spring of 2016, Nick Giacobbe, Ed.M.'15, was named by TechTalk as the Innovator of the Year for the Chicago Public Schools. He is a 4th- and 5th-grade special education teacher at Burley Elementary School in Chicago.